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"Computers to merge with humans"

"Computers to merge with humans"

"Computers to merge with humans"

No that's not the title of a 50s sci-fi comic or an alarmist Daily Mail headline, it's the BBC's take on a report drawn up by 45 academics from the fields of computing, science, sociology and psychology. The report attempts to predict what changes we are likely to see in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) by the year 2020. I haven't read the full report but some of the predictions mentioned in the BBC article just make me think "Yeah, I've heard that all before, and where are the hover-boards we were promised?"

The keyboard, mouse and monitor will increasingly be replaced by more intuitive forms of interaction and display, including tablet computers, speech recognition systems and fingertip-operated surfaces.

It will be a long, long, time before the keyboard and mouse are replaced as input methods for every-day computing. Of course we will see more devices making use of touch and gestural input (think iPhone & Wii for examples that have appeared in just the past 18 months) but 2020 is less than 12 years away and I really can't imagine rows of office workers talking to and waving at their touch-screen computers by then.

Although paper will still be a reality in 2020, digital paper will also flourish allowing us to create, for example, social network magazines that update in real time.

I remember reading about how e-paper was the Next Big Thing in the Innovations section of section of my dad's Sunday Times about 15 years ago. Since then we've heard a lot but seen very little. Call me a cynic but I don't believe we'll see much progress in the next 15 years either. Even when/if the (considerable) technological hurdles are overcome it remains to be seen whether people even want it. On the other had the report is partially funded by Microsoft, the company who told us there was no future in the Internet ("The Internet? We are not interested in it." - Bill Gates, 1993), so perhaps it should be taken with a grain of salt ;-)

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Plusnet Staff
To be fair few people in 1993 would have imagined the potential of the Internet as we see it today. The 'web' had only just popped out of CERN, *very* few people had local 'points of presence' (POPs) to dial into on their v.22 or v.32 (<9600bps) modems and you might forgive Bill G. for not 'getting it'. I'm pretty sure his guys did though.. I remember the fuss being made by IT guys generally about how Windows 95 had TCP/IP 'built in' - in previous Windows you had to install a Winsock (remember that?). It wasn't too long until we were all using IE3 was it? Anyway.. never mind about hoverboards, where are the blooming flying cars?
Grafter
Can you imagine an office full of people 'talking' to their computers? 'Are you on the phone or talking to me' a nearby PC would say. The mouse will still be the best input device and, if people actually learned to type, so will the keyboard. Flexibility and security should be the top two issues. 'Did you say something?' 'Peep, peep!' Ok then, I will empty your Temp folder and Waste Bin and give you a Defrag; how is that?
Community Veteran
Mind-controlled input is starting to become available now though - I remember reading a review on Engadget recently for some game controller that literally just picked up your thoughts and translated them to game commands (well, that's what it tried to do anyway - IIRC it wasn't that successful). So, given some refinement, I could certainly that being used as a method of text input for computers of the future... imagine that combined with something like MS's multitouch 'Surface' concept and you've got something pretty neat indeed.
Community Gaffer
Lots of advances in flexible circuit boards/silicon chips etc too which means that epaper isn't that far away. I'm sure i've seen a prototype somewhere too...